Lex Cantandi. Lex Orandi. Lex Credendi. In Latin this means, we believe what we sing and we believe what we say.
Lyrics in songs can vary from topics from violence to God. A song with a wholesome meaning and poetic lyrics can take your breath away. However, today we are in danger of allowing ourselves not to think about lyrics in exchange for a bop.
The formulaic nature of pop songs isn’t inherently bad, but that doesn’t warrant corrupt lyrics. Let’s take for instance a song that everybody has been listening to recently, “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande and dive deeper into the lyrics. This popular song is a remix of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music put to a pop-style beat a la Regina George. Some of the lyrics include: “I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it. You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it. I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.”
However, these lyrics play into a culture of instant gratification. They tell the lie that money is all we need in order to find happiness. How are these lyrics uplifting?
Helena Mayer, a music and worship and honors humanities major, shared her thoughts on the power of pop music, saying, “I’m more sad that there is a potential in pop music to have a positive influence and a lot of that is being missed for creating something that is just a bop.”
Music can and will shape what you believe about the world. There have been several studies done about the impact of music on adolescents. Steven C. Martino conducted a study on the effects of sexually degrading lyrics and their effects on adolescents. The study found that “kids with the highest levels of exposure to sexually degrading lyrics, 51 percent went on to initiate sexual intercourse between the first and second surveys.” He went on to state that these kids were between ages 12–14.
Dhyana Kimie, a music and worship major states that we hear music everywhere we go, “In the commercial world, there is never quiet,” Kimie said. “There are going to be pop songs that will influence a young kid’s mind because they hear it in a store.”
There is a reason it is called popular music. Perhaps it is time that popular artists take responsibility for the lyrics they’re singing, even if they are written by someone else.
“Lyrics have so much power and if you hear a really good deep song it makes you think about them for a while,” Kimie said.
The influence of messages in songs implies that all lyrics should be screened. However, lyrics are a form of expression and should not be censored. Censorship is not something that many creatives would encourage at all. There does need to be education regarding what lyrics can do to younger generations who are easily influenced.
Mayer shares that she thinks songwriters can be a solution to the piece of the problem by writing about life in all its complexities. “A solution is having people encourage songwriters to write vulnerable things and share their process,” Mayer said. “People need to write more about than just love. There is so much more to life than just relationships.”
Mayer also shares that Spotify’s Genius lyrics help because it allows a person look at the lyrics and see why they are written. When people see that the songwriting process is valuable and should be something more than just a formula, they begin listening to lyrics that reflect this.
There are several good examples of great artists with fantastic lyrics such as Penny and Sparrow, Jon Bellion, Norah Jones and Johnnyswim. Take a look at these lyrics by Johnnyswim’s song the Heart Beats: “I’m born to go where they tell me it’s impossible. Fan the flame and walk on the water. I’ve got heaven locked up in these bones.”
Excellent lyrics are out there and we should all be supporting artists who have lyrics that make us stop and think. Heart Beats is about how when one is going through a rough time and you just want to run we are entirely capable of standing on our own. It gets us thinking about what we can achieve when we embrace hardship. When we listen to an artist’s songs, we are supporting their philosophies and lifestyle choices. As their lyrics get stuck in our heads, they can become a part of who we are.
“Because of my beliefs, I think striving for goodness, virtue and truth should be what we are fighting for as human beings and I think our music should be a reflection of that,” Mayer said.
So the next time you are listening to a song, stop and listen to what the song is saying. Good music should move you. Lex Cantandi. Lex Orandi. Lex Credendi. We believe what we sing and we believe what we say.